The ITUC has denounced the violent attacks by the police and the special security forces on demonstrators protesting over disputed presidential elections on Sunday evening in Belarus (9 August) and called on the government of Belarus to respect the true voice of its citizens.
Dictator Alexander Lukashenko – in power for 26 years – has clearly lost the support of the Belarusian people and elections should be re-run with an independent electoral commission and international observers to ensure fair play. Those arrested must be released.
Independent trade unions in Belarus believe that the presidential candidate Svetlana Tikhanovskaya won a landslide victory in the elections – as much as 64% to 26% – and claim that the elections were rigged. The election campaign was marked by massive and brutal repressions aimed at civil society, searches, threats, dismissals from work, fines and intimidation. After the election authorities announced the official exit poll results, implying an electoral triumph for Alyaksandr Lukashenko, people took to the streets in many parts of Belarus.
Claiming that ‘electoral theft’ took place throughout the country, people showed their discontent. Riot police made every effort to disperse peaceful protesters in the Belarusian capital of Minsk, using teargas, batons, rubber bullets, water cannons and grenades. Three thousand people were detained for participating in ‘unauthorised mass events’ (a thousand in the capital, Minsk) including Nikolay Zimin, former president of the mining and chemical workers’ union BNP. Factory strikes are breaking out, including in the famous Minsk tractor factory, and journalists are being arrested.
Aliaksandr Yarashuk, leader of the Belarusian independent union, affiliated to the ITUC, said:
“Nothing ended on election day, and everything is just beginning – I am convinced that this story will end with the inglorious departure of the current political regime.”
ITUC General Secretary Sharan Burrow said:
“The Belarusian authorities must ensure that the fundamental rights of freedom of association, freedom of speech, peaceful assembly and media freedom are recognised. They must listen to the voice of people and respect their choices rather than respond with violence and repression.
“Those arrested must be released, and we want the elections to be re-run, with an independent election commission and international observers, or we will be calling on the European Union and the international community to restore the sanctions on the regime which were lifted in a misguided spirit of optimism.”
Belarus has been ranked for many years at a 5 in the ITUC Global Rights Index: “no guarantee of rights”. Fixed-term labour contracts are a form of forced labour and have turned workers into serfs. It is effectively impossible to hold a legal strike and there is very strict legislation on illegal strikes.